Explore Cuba’s Biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History’s New Cuba Exhibit 

The Cuban National Museum of Natural History (Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de Cuba, MNHN) is collaborating with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on research, education, and exhibitions to further the aims put forth in the Memorandum of Understanding signed on July 9th, 2016 in Havana.

The American Museum of Natural History announced that the first undertaking in the name of the Memorandum of Understanding will be a bilingual exhibition, ¡Cuba!, that explores the biodiversity and culture of the Caribbean island nation. The exhibition is set to open on November 21st, 2016 and run until August 13th, 2017.

¡Cuba! exhibitions are designed to not only be informative, but immersive—recreating Cuban environments for visitors who haven’t yet had an opportunity to visit Cuba itself. ¡Cuba! high points include: a recreated Cuban cave where guests can study the fossils of extinct species such as Megalocnus rodens, a giant ground sloth that once populated Cuba; a recreation of the Zapata wetlands, a national park we visit on both our Western Cuba Kayaking and National Parks of Cuba tours, is where the endangered Cuban crocodile lives; and live reptiles and amphibians such as lizards, frogs, and Cuban boas.

The animals and landscapes don’t get all the attention in the Cuba exhibit, and Cuban culture and daily life will be explored as well. Exhibitions exploring Cuban music, celebrations such as Revolution Day, art, food, and tobacco farming will also be included. Visitors will be able to walk down a boulevard where Cuban “street-life” is thrumming and not simply on display, but in action.  

¡Cuba! will showcase decades worth of collaborative research. Though the Cold War chilled U.S.-Cuba relations, researchers from the AMNH and their Cuban counterparts continued to collaborate on their scientific pursuits. A collaborative Cuban-U.S. team spotted the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought to be extinct, in 1986; a different joint team spent a decade excavating extinct monkey fossils starting in 1989. For Cuba and the U.S., science has always trumped politics.

One of the latest collaborative endeavors was the 2015 expedition to the Humboldt National Park. Located in eastern Cuba, where our Eastern Cuba Kayak tour, Kayaking in the Wake of Christopher Columbus, takes place, Humboldt National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Center and the largest, least disturbed forest in Cuba.

The Humboldt National Park expedition was part of the AMNH’s Explore21 initiative, and the groundbreaking research and video footage will be included in the Cuba exhibit. Can’t wait? Podcasts are currently posted up on the AMNH website and available for an early preview.

Cuba is a paradise—for natural history, for scientists seeking new discoveries, and for adventure seekers. If you can’t make it to the real Cuba this year, checking out the AMNH’s Cuba is the next best thing. It’s an exciting exhibition of Cuba’s biodiversity and rich culture—as well as the power of cultural collaboration. 

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